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NFL Week 3 takeaways: Bills survive, but the Falcons collapse — again

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Week 3 in the NFL was pretty wild. The Bills nearly fell to the Rams after taking a big lead, but quarterback Josh Allen led an eventful final drive to move Buffalo to 3-0 on the year. The Falcons did fall to the Bears, losing their second double-digit lead in as many weeks. The Titans snuck past the Vikings, the injury-loaded 49ers had no problem with the Giants and the Steelers kept the Texans winless. Oh, and the Eagles and Bengals tied?

All that and more in Week 3‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:
LAR-BUF | LV-NE | TEN-MIN
HOU-PIT | SF-NYG | CHI-ATL
WSH-CLE | CIN-PHI | MIA-JAX

Standout performer for LAR-BUF: Josh Allen, 311 passing yards, 4 TDs, 1 rushing TD

Josh Allen is the real deal. Facing a late-game deficit for the second consecutive week, Allen led an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive to secure the Bills’ third win of the year. He took long sacks, he ran for his life and he committed inexcusable penalties, but ultimately, he did what it took to win the game. His third straight 300-yard game gives him more than 1,000 passing yards on the season; his hot start is not a fluke. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Raiders (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)

The Rams can take solace departing Buffalo just short of a historic come-from-behind win against the undefeated Bills. Facing a 25-point deficit early in the third quarter, the Rams forced two turnovers and scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions to take a 32-28 lead before they eventually fell to the Bills. Halftime adjustments on defense proved critical after the Rams failed to disrupt Allen in the first half. And offensively, quarterback Jared Goff found a rhythm with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in the second half. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: vs. Giants (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer for LV-NE: Sony Michel, 117 rushing yards

A running game revival led the Patriots past the Raiders on Sunday. Sony Michel ran with a renewed energy in making a decisive statement to keep his job as the team’s No. 1 back as Damien Harris becomes eligible to return from injured reserve this week. And eight-year veteran Rex Burkhead registered his first career three-touchdown game. In all, the Patriots eclipsed 200 yards rushing in a game for the second time this season, marking the first time they’ve had 200 rushing yards twice within the first three games of a season since 1983. — Mike Reiss

Next game: at Chiefs (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)

The Raiders stumbled all over themselves after absolutely dominating early when they could have taken a three-score lead. But self-inflicted wounds in the guise of penalties, turnovers by Derek Carr (twice, including a late strip sack for a TD in the end zone) and Josh Jacobs, a missed field goal and the inability to take advantage of momentum early in each half spelled the Raiders’ doom as they fell to 1-2 on the season. — Paul Gutierrez

Next game: vs. Bills (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer for TEN-MIN: Stephen Gostkowski, 6-for-6 FGs, including 51-, 54- and 55-yarders

The Titans’ defense continues to be a question after giving up 464 yards of total offense to the previously struggling Vikings attack. That’s two consecutive weeks in which teams have gained more than 450 yards against Tennessee. Dalvin Cook rushed for a career-high 181 yards, and rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had a career day in posting 175 receiving yards. But the Titans are now 3-0 for the first time since 2008, and they’ll have a tough matchup next week when the 3-0 Steelers come to town. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Steelers (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

What is it going to take for the Vikings to avoid another monumental collapse when they hit the road for Houston and Seattle in Weeks 4 and 5? Minnesota is the first team in NFL history to have one player record 175 rushing yards and another player record 175 receiving yards in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, and the Vikings still lost. When the offense had a chance to pull through for the team’s first victory, it faltered in chaotic fashion on a disastrous final drive. The Vikings aren’t getting any help from the defense this season, either. It’s going to be up to the offense, which put up 464 yards and 30 points in a loss, to get into shootouts to win games from this point forward. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Texans (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

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Kirk Cousins throws downfield to Justin Jefferson, who cuts back inside to blow by his defenders and complete the 71-yard touchdown play.

Standout performer for HOU-PIT: James Conner, 109 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards, 1 TD

The Steelers moved to 3-0 for the first time in a decade with complementary football in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, thanks to a combination of well-timed defensive stops and their best run-game performance of the season. After a slow start, the Steelers sacked Deshaun Watson five times, including a crucial one by T.J. Watt late in the fourth quarter. In the run game, the Steelers rushed for 169 yards on 38 carries, controlling the clock for almost 37 minutes. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Titans (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

The Texans were more competitive in their Week 3 loss to the Steelers than they had been through two games, but their early-season weaknesses were on display, including an inability by the defense to get off the field in the second half. Next up for Houston’s poor rushing defense? The Vikings and Dalvin Cook, who ran for 181 yards on Sunday. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Vikings (1 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer for SF-NYG: Nick Mullens, 343 passing yards, 1 TD

The injury-ravaged Niners entered Sunday’s game against the Giants with 10 projected starters out because of injury. And they were returning to the artificial surface of MetLife Stadium, where many of those injuries occurred a week ago against the Jets. No matter — the 49ers dominated the Giants. Yes, it was just another win against another lowly New York team, but that shouldn’t mean the Niners get any less credit for what they did on their two-game New York swing. With winnable home games against the Eagles and Dolphins in the next two weeks, the Niners have every reason to believe they can be 4-1 when the Rams come calling on Oct. 18. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Eagles (8:20 p.m. ET Sunday)

Another disappointment. There really is no other way to say it for QB Daniel Jones and the Giants. They are 0-3 in Joe Judge’s first season as coach, and Jones has six turnovers in 12 quarters, with two more coming in Sunday’s loss to the decimated 49ers. “Those are costly mistakes,” Jones said. “Certainly need to correct.” If Jones can’t fix his turnover issues, the Giants have to seriously question whether he is their quarterback of the future. With the fumble in the first quarter, Jones now has 20 fumbles in his first 16 career games. The only player with more through his first 16 career games in the Super Bowl era is Tony Banks (24), per ESPN Stats & Information research. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Rams (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer for CHI-ATL: Nick Foles, 188 passing yards, 3 TDs

Coach Matt Nagy stopped short of naming veteran quarterback Nick Foles the starter for next week’s game at Indianapolis, but Foles earned the job with three second-half touchdown passes in Chicago’s comeback victory over Atlanta. Foles has been up and down in his career, but he sees the field better than Mitchell Trubisky, who, once again, had trouble connecting on deep passes Sunday. Foles provides Chicago with a more consistent option at quarterback, and the Bears just need to play more consistent football, period. Chicago is lucky to be 3-0, and Nagy needs to ride Foles’ hot hand until further notice. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: vs. Colts (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

There has to be some sort of major change made after the Falcons were outscored 20-0 in the fourth quarter to blow a 26-10 lead and fall to the Bears. Coach Dan Quinn appears to be on the verge of being fired, although he avoided talking about his job status. The Falcons threw the ball five times and ran it once during consecutive fourth-quarter possessions after holding a 26-16 lead. Coupled with a Week 2 loss at Dallas in which the Falcons blew a 39-24 fourth-quarter lead, the Falcons now are the first team to lose twice in one season while holding 15-plus-point leads, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. If Quinn isn’t let go, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter certainly might be in trouble for his late playcalling. — Vaughn McClure

Next game: at Packers (8:20 p.m. ET Monday, Oct. 5)


Standout performer for WSH-CLE: Nick Chubb, 108 rushing yards, 2 TDs

The Browns have a record above .500 for the first time in six years. They weren’t especially crisp and trailed Washington 20-17 in the fourth quarter. But Cleveland finally got the running game going, and the defense stepped up with a pair of key turnovers. Before Sunday, Cleveland had gone 90 consecutive weeks without a winning record, easily the longest active streak in the NFL. The Browns were last above .500 going into Week 15 of the 2014 season, when they were 7-6 — then they lost their final three games of the year. — Jake Trotter

Next game: at Cowboys (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

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0:59

Nick Chubb finds the end zone twice on the ground, while Kareem Hunt records one through the air, as Cleveland defeats Washington 34-20.

Coach Ron Rivera is sticking with QB Dwayne Haskins Jr., which shouldn’t be surprising because he sold owner Dan Snyder on his plan to develop him. Pulling him after three games would be hasty. Haskins, though, needs to start showing more consistency and threaten teams down the field, as his inaccuracy remains an issue, though he did start strong and was more in rhythm before his three interceptions occurred. His development will dictate Washington’s future — not just this year but the next several and then some. Once Washington pulls the plug, that will signal the obvious: It will be in the market for another quarterback in the offseason. Haskins’ mindset after the game was good; he said the only thing that now matters is preparing for Week 4. He’s right. He warrants patience, but at some point this season, he’ll have to reward Rivera for his belief in him. — John Keim

Next game: vs. Ravens (1 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer for CIN-PHI: Tyler Boyd, 125 receiving yards

Bengals rookie Joe Burrow showed he is the franchise quarterback the team hoped for when it drafted him with the first overall pick. Even in a tie with the Eagles on Sunday, Burrow looked his sharpest yet in a young rookie season. The LSU product was 31-of-44 passing for 312 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Burrow weathered some big hits to deliver in the second half, completing 19 of his 26 attempts for 218 yards. “He gives us a chance to win,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game. — Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Jaguars (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

It’s officially time to be concerned about the Eagles and Carson Wentz. The quarterback made some plays late in regulation to force OT but had his third shaky outing in as many starts, going 29-of-47 for 225 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, as the Eagles moved to 0-2-1. Wentz now has six picks on the year — just one fewer than he had all of last season. It’s premature to think a changing of the guard is at hand, but there will be plenty of chatter about inserting second-round pick Jalen Hurts into the lineup this week as a dismayed fan base searches for ways to save a season heading off a cliff. — Tim McManus

Next game: at 49ers (8:20 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer for MIA-JAX: Ryan Fitzpatrick, 160 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD

The Dolphins pulled back from the precipice. Had they added a third loss to their 0-2 start, the drumbeat for the debut of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would have gained strength. But after soundly defeating the Jaguars on Thursday night, the Dolphins are back in the AFC East race. And they’ll push forward with a rejuvenated starter in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who opened Thursday night’s game with a career-high 12 consecutive completions. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: vs. Seahawks (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

The Jaguars keep getting off to slow starts. They gave up an opening-drive TD in Week 1, back-to-back TD drives in Week 2 and back-to-back TD drives again Thursday night against Miami. This time, the Jaguars couldn’t overcome it because the offense struggled to get anything going without DJ Chark Jr. (back/chest) to stretch the field and give the other receivers space to work underneath. The defense continues to have issues pressuring the quarterback on third down, and opposing QBs are putting up career numbers. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Bengals (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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